NY TIMES: Trump Actually Fired Jeff Sessions Over Mueller Appointment — Pence & Others Talked Unglued Prez Out Of Accepting Resignation! — Trump’s Intent To Obstruct Russia Investigation Clear If Report Accurate!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/us/politics/jeff-sessions-trump.html?smid=tw-share

Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report:

“WASHINGTON — Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

The president blamed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation — a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of “disloyalty,” Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general.

Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.

The Oval Office meeting, details of which have not previously been reported, shows the intensity of Mr. Trump’s emotions as the Russia investigation gained steam and how he appeared to immediately see Mr. Mueller’s appointment as a looming problem for his administration. It also illustrates the depth of antipathy Mr. Trump has had for Mr. Sessions — one of his earliest campaign supporters — and how the president interprets “disloyalty” within his circle of advisers.

Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an F.B.I. director and a national security adviser. Mr. Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr. Sessions, but for a second time didn’t take action.

. . . .

The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions — with a handwritten response on it.

For Mr. Sessions, the aggressiveness with which Mr. Trump has sought his removal was a blow. The son of a general store owner in a small town in Alabama, Mr. Sessions had long wanted to be the nation’s top federal law enforcement official or to serve in another top law enforcement or judicial post. He earned a reputation in the Senate as someone tough on immigration, and was the first senator to back Mr. Trump in the presidential campaign.

But their relationship began to deteriorate little more than a month after Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, after Mr. Sessions’s announcement that he was recusing himself from the Russia inquiry caught Mr. Trump by surprise.

The president spent months stewing about the recusal. In a July 19 interview with The Times, Mr. Trump said he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions to be attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump called the decision “very unfair to the president.”

Days after the Times interview, Mr. Trump told aides he wanted to replace Mr. Sessions. Some of the president’s aides, not sure if Mr. Trump really wanted the attorney general gone or was just working through his anger, were able to delay the firing until the president’s anger passed.

But Mr. Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak” — a word that is among the harshest criticisms in Mr. Trump’s arsenal.

Administration officials and some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have puzzled at Mr. Sessions’s decision to stay on. But people close to Mr. Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to have an impact on what he sees as a defining issue of his career: curtailing legal and illegal immigration.

In recent weeks, he has spearheaded the effort to undo what he believed to be the Obama administration’s dangerously lenient immigration policies, including the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.

Mr. Sessions had no illusions about converting Mr. Trump to his side of the argument — Mr. Trump remains deeply ambivalent — and he had no illusions about repairing a damaged relationship he had once regarded as a friendship. But he told people he felt he had successfully pushed the president toward ending the Obama immigration policy, and thought it had given him increased leverage in the West Wing.

The president agreed to terminate the program, and on Sept. 5 Mr. Sessions stood alone at a lectern — a moment that seemed to be a significant victory for the attorney general.

But his satisfaction was fleeting. Mr. Trump quickly undercut Mr. Sessions in a tweet by saying he would reconsider whether or not to end the program, leading the attorney general to tell allies that he was frustrated that the president had muddled months of work leading to the announcement of the new policy.

On Wednesday evening, Democrats announced they had reached a deal with the president to quickly extend protections for young undocumented immigrants.

On Thursday morning, taking a vastly different position from the one Mr. Sessions had announced, the president tweeted about the need for protections for people brought here “through no fault of their own.”

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I’m not in favor of publicly humiliating any human being, even Jeff Sessions. But, my sympathy is tempered by Sessions’s willingness to lie and humiliate migrants, Hispanics, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community, among others, in pursuit of his obscene White Nationalist agenda. In other words, to pick on the most vulnerable members of our society, rather than using the laws to protect them and advance the cause of justice, including social justice (a concept that Sessions has never grasped).

Trump’s reasons for firing Sessions were unethical and wrong. But, Sessions is already the worst and least qualified Attorney General in modern history. When he finally departs the Department of Justice, of his own volition or otherwise, it will be a relief to all Americans who believe in the Constitution and a diverse, humane, inclusive society. The only question is whether the damage that Sessions is doing at Justice and to the Department’s credibility can ever be repaired after the debacle of his tenure finally ends.

PWS

09-14-17

 

NEWSWEEK: Gonzo Apocalypto’s Next Targets: The 1st Amendment & Reporters — Truth-Challenged Press Conference Assails “Leakers!”

http://www.newsweek.com/sessions-leaks-trump-fired-fake-news-media-cnn-mueller-comey-obama-golf-646838?spMailingID=2132659&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=850160461&spReportId=ODUwMTYwNDYxS0

Jeff Stein reports:

“Another day, another Donald Trump show. The president was absent from the elaborate press conference that Attorney General Jeff sessions held at the Justice Department on Friday to showcase the administration’s intent to crack down on leaks.

But his looming presence was palpable. The president reportedly often watches and critiques the TV performance of his officials.

“This culture of leaking must stop,” Sessions said, echoing Trump’s increasingly bitter tweets.

Flanking Sessions were Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats and William Evanina, head of the little-known National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“Conspicuously absent,” The Washington Post noted, “were representatives for the FBI, which generally investigates leaks.” Rosenstein said the new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, wasn’t there because he had just started his job this week.

Unlikely. Wray’s office is just a short walk across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Justice Department. If Wray were unavailable, plenty of other top FBI officials certainly were. Under a president obsessed with how his officials come across on television, the exclusion of them seemed deliberate.

. . . . .

The tableau presented by Sessions, who is struggling to hold on to his job after weeks of withering criticism from Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, seemed designed to suggest to the president’s political base that other, more trusted security agencies would play a prominent role in the leak investigation.

Not going to happen. As opposed to what the TV pictures might suggest, U.S. intelligence agencies are barred from criminal investigations of leaks (although they conduct their own internal probes).  

“Only the FBI has jurisdiction to conduct that type of investigation,” Robert L. Dietz, who has held senior legal positions at the CIA, NSA, the National Geo-Spatial Agency and the Defense Department, tells Newsweek. “Indeed, the entire intel establishment has no authority over leaks.”

. . . .

Historically, critics of leak investigations, including government officials, have called them “a fool’s errand.” They can often lead right back to the offices of the White House or cabinet official who demanded them.

But Sessions added a dark element to his Friday announcement, suggesting he might start issuing subpoenas to reporters. The secret monitoring of media organizations could well accompany such investigations, history shows.

Press freedom organizations denounced the idea. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it would “strongly oppose” a revision of Obama administration guidelines generally prohibiting such subpoenas. It also announced it had set up a toll-free hotline for reporters to call for legal advice if they got a subpoena.

Most leaks involving controversial Trump administration policies and its in-fighting and chaos have not included classified information. But some national security officials, both Democrats and Republicans, said Thursday they were shocked by the leaks of complete transcripts of Trump’s private telephone conversations with the president of Mexico and prime minister of Australia. Both transcripts revealed Trump saying things in stark contrast to his public positions. He had denounced previous reports characterizing the calls—accurately, as it turned out—as “fake news.” Sessions indicated he was going to get to the bottom of who leaked the transcripts.

But far from being investigated and punished, whistleblowers should be recognized as playing an important role in a democracy, says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C. nongovernmental organization. Leak probes, she said, can stumble onto rightful efforts to expose crimes by government officials.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the federal government,” Brian told The Washington Post. “The last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks.”

*************************************************

Notable that Sessions’s so-called “press conference” (is it really a “press conference” if you don’t take questions from the press?) was actually a performance aimed at reassuring President Trump that he was “on message” after being accused (falsely) by the President of being “weak on leaks.”

There is one major disclosure of classified information that should concern all Americans: Trump’s cavalier offering of sensitive documents to the Russians, who are not our friends or allies. Other than that, most of the “leaked” information consists of what NBC’s Chuck Todd would call “water cooler stuff” that more likely than not was “leaked” by members of Trump’s own “inner circle” as part of the never ending “palace intrigues” and “power struggles” surrounding the West Wing. While it’s easy to understand why truth could be embarrassing to Trump and his minions, its not by any means a threat to national security. No, the biggest REAL thereat to our national security remains President Trump himself.

PWS

08-07-17

NOT GONZO ENOUGH: AG Jeff Sessions Has Faithfully Advanced The White House’s White Nationalist Agenda At The DOJ — But The Donald Also Wanted Someone Who Would “Throw” The Russia Investigation — Expects “Cabinet Of Toadies”

In a far ranging interview with the NY Times that some would call “unhinged,” President Trump trashed Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein (he’s from Baltimore, home of Democrats), James Comey, and Robert Mueller for showing any modicum of ethics and independence.

Here’s the entire article by Times reporters 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/politics/trump-interview-sessions-russia.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Here are some key excerpts:

“WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

. . . .

But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not had “communications with the Russians” even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

A spokesman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment on Wednesday.

The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounted to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.

. . . .

Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.

He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”

**********************************************

I guess reversing Obama-era civil rights, voting rights, transgender rights protections, switching sides in several lawsuits to oppose plaintiffs seeking to vindicate Constitutional rights, turning local police loose on minorities, trashing forensic science, firing U.S. Attorneys, going to war with states and localities over immigration enforcement, re-instituting the use of private prisons operated by those with political ties, rearranging U.S. Immigration Court Dockets to support more or less random DHS enforcement priorities, defending some over the top positions on immigration in court, seizing property from non-criminals, and hastily coming up with some contrived reasons for firing James Comey after Trump had already decided to do so aren’t enough to stay in favor with the Boss.

It’s not that one would have to be a “rocket scientist” to figure out that Sessions, a member of the campaign team, would ethically have to recuse himself from an investigation into the activities of the campaign team. And, if anyone at DOJ beyond Mueller and the now departed Comey have shown any bit of independence from the White House, it certainly hasn’t been obvious to the public. Indeed the DOJ appears to be in lockstep with the Administration’s most extreme and Constitutionally questionable plans. But, I guess “complete toadyism” requires going “an extra mile.”

The latest from the NY Times is that Sessions says he’s going to stay, at least for now.

PWS

07-20-17

DHS MISTREATS KIDS: U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee Finds That DHS Has Blown Off Her Prior Orders & Continues To Mistreat Children In Detention!

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/28/government-continues-ignore-rights-children-detention-court-finds/

Karolina Walters writes in Immigration Impact:

“Despite being among some of the most vulnerable, children seeking asylum in the United States often fare the worst. Upon entering the United States, children are often detained for extended periods in violation of a long-standing agreement known as the Flores settlement.

The Flores agreement essentially acts as a contract between the government and children held in immigration custody. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled once again that the government is failing to meet its obligations to children held in immigration custody.

The court found a number of violations, including holding children too long in detention, in substandard conditions, and in non-licensed facilities. In addition, the court ruled that the government is required to look at each child’s case individually to determine whether release from custody is appropriate—the government may not rely on any blanket standard to avoid the responsibility of assessing each case individually.

The Flores agreement is a nationwide settlement reached in 1997. In this settlement, the government agreed that children taken into immigration custody would be placed in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to [their] age and special needs” and would be released “without unnecessary delay,” preferably to a parent. The settlement also requires that if a child is not released to a parent, adult relative, or an appropriate guardian, children must be placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children within five days of apprehension.

Two years ago, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), on behalf of immigrant children, brought suit to enforce the Flores settlement. In July and August of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said the government must apply the settlement to all minors, including those detained with family members. Tuesday’s order from Judge Gee outlines the particular ways in which the government is in breach of the Flores settlement and how the court seeks to ensure compliance going forward.”

*******************************************

Read the complete article at the link.

While AG Jeff Sessions is out whipping up xenophobic frenzy and promoting the need for an “American Gulag” to support his “Gonzo Apocalypto” immigration enforcement agenda, he ignores his real legal and constitutional duties: Get General Kelly and the rest of the folks over at DHS to obey the law and stop mistreating kids!

That someone like Sessions with such totally warped values and lack of any sense of justice or decency should be in charge of our supposedly due process providing U.S. Immigration Court system is a continuing travesty of justice.

PWS

06-29-17

 

JOINING THE CLUB: Sessions “Lawyers Up!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/attorney-general-sessions-retains-a-personal-attorney/2017/06/20/698d9828-55f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_sessionslawyer-941pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7a3bb2306c43

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire in recent months for his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, has retained the services of Washington lawyer Charles J. Cooper, a longtime friend.

Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump and Russia.

“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Cooper wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

Cooper, a partner with his own firm, Cooper & Kirk, would not say when he was retained by Sessions or whether he is representing Sessions in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump and Russia. Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump on the campaign trail, was a top adviser to Trump during his race for president.

Cooper also assisted Sessions with his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing those preparations in an interview with The Post at the time.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, described Cooper as “the attorney general’s longtime friend and counsel.”

The National Law Journal first reported that Cooper is now Sessions’s personal attorney.

Cooper, who clerked for Justice William H. Rehnquist on the Supreme Court, served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. He was also a partner at McGuireWoods and at Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

Cooper was also under consideration to serve as the Justice Department’s solicitor general. He withdrew his name in February, citing his concern after watching Sessions go through the confirmation process to become attorney general.

“After witnessing the treatment that my friend Jeff Sessions, a decent and honorable man who bears only good will and good cheer to everyone he meets, had to endure at the hands of a partisan opposition that will say anything and do anything to advance their political interests, I am unwilling to subject myself, my family and my friends to such a process,” Cooper said in a statement at the time.”

********************************************

Read the complete article at the above link.

I think Cooper confuses “geniality” with “goodwill.” That Sessions is a bearer of “goodwill” would be news to most blacks, hispanics, immigrants, migrants, and LGBT individuals in the U.S. Yes, we’ve all noted that he is “genial.” But the South has been famous for producing polite, charming, genial white politicians who spent careers making sure that African Americans were denied their legal and constitutional rights, their human dignity, and their rights to fully participate in American society. Actions speak louder than words. And, since assuming the office of Attorney General, Sessions’s actions have been geared specifically at implementing a nationalist agenda inconsistent with the interests of many Americans, particularly minorities, immigrants, and the LGBT community.

As I have said numerous times over the past five months, the Trump Administration has been a “lawyer’s dream.” Prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, and legal reporters have all been very busy, and that’s not likely to change.

PWS

06-20-17

 

POLITICO: HOW DEEP IN THE DOJ BULLPEN WOULD TRUMP HAVE TO GO TO FIRE MUELLER? — Sessions, Rosenstein, Brand Likely “Toast,” But Others Down the Line Might Also Balk At Carrying Out Order! — NEWSWEEK SAYS FIRING MUELLER WOULD MEAN “PRESIDENT PENCE!”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/16/donald-trump-justice-department-succession-plan-239652?cid=apn

Annie Karni writes in Politico:

“An abstract, in-case-of-emergency-break-glass executive order drafted by the Trump administration in March may become real-world applicable as the president, raging publicly at his Justice Department, mulls firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has twice rewritten an executive order that outlines the order of succession at the Justice Department — once after President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his travel ban, and then again two months later. The executive order outlines a list of who would be elevated to the position of acting attorney general if the person up the food chain recuses himself, resigns, gets fired or is no longer in a position to serve.

In the past, former Justice Department officials and legal experts said, the order of succession is no more than an academic exercise — a chain of command applicable only in the event of an attack or crisis when government officials are killed and it is not clear who should be in charge.

But Trump and the Russia investigation that is tightening around him have changed the game.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian operatives, after it was revealed that he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. And Trump started his morning on Friday by appearing to take a public shot at his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who has increasingly become the target of his impulsive anger.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the president tweeted.

The Justice Department said in a statement on Friday that there are no current plans for a recusal, but Rosenstein has said in the past that he would back away from overseeing Mueller’s investigation if his role in the ouster of former FBI Director James Comey becomes a conflict.

That has legal experts closely examining the dry executive order to figure out who might be next up to bat, or, as Democratic lawyers and consultants view it, who might serve as Trump’s next sacrificial lamb.

“We know Rachel Brand is the next victim,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, referring to the former George W. Bush official who was recently confirmed as associate attorney general, the third-highest position in the Justice Department.

“For those of us who have high confidence in Rachel — the more confidence you have in someone in this role, the less long you think they’ll last,” said Wittes, who said he considers Brand a friend. “That does put a very high premium on the question of who is next.”

That question, however, has become more complicated because the Trump administration has been slow to fill government positions and get those officials confirmed. Typically, the solicitor general would be next in line after the associate attorney general, followed by the list of five assistant U.S. attorneys, the order of which would be determined by the attorney general. But none of those individuals have been confirmed by the Senate, and they would be unable to serve as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.

Because of that, the executive order comes into play — one that puts next in line after Brand the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente. Boente, a career federal prosecutor and an appointee of former President Barack Obama, was tapped last April to serve as the interim head of the Justice Department’s national security division, which oversees the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Boente, who was briefly thrust into the no. 2 spot at the Justice Department after Yates was fired, was also tasked with phoning Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to deliver the unexpected news that he was fired. At the time, Boente also vowed to defend Trump’s travel ban in the future.

Boente is followed, on the succession list, by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, John Stuart Bruce; and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, John Parker. Both are career prosecutors who are serving in their posts on an interim basis, until a presidential appointment is made. But they would not need to be Senate confirmed to take over.”

*************************************************

Read Karni’s full article at the link. Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, Graham Lanktree speculates that Trump’s outside legal team is building a case against Mueller. But, that case appears to be totally bogus, a rather blatant attempt to obstruct and pervert justice, in the best (or worst) traditions of Richard Nixon. Many believe that the firing of Mueller would lead to the fall of Trump (either by impeachment or forced resignation) and the ushering in of President Mike Pence.

Here’s the link to the Newsweek article:

http://www.newsweek.com/pence-will-soon-be-president-if-trump-fires-mueller-says-bush-lawyer-626987?spMailingID=1969868&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=810837063&spReportId=ODEwODM3MDYzS0

And, here’s an excerpt from Lanktree’s report:

“Vice President Mike Pence will soon lead the U.S. if President Donald Trump fires Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, a Bush administration ethics lawyer said Saturday.

Trump’s legal team and surrogates are “building a case for firing Mueller,” wrote Richard Painter in a tweet after he appeared on Fox News Saturday. Painter was President George W. Bush’s chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.

“If that happens Mike Pence will soon become the 46th President,” Painter wrote. “Trump surrogates are making up Mueller ‘conflicts’ to justify firing him. That will be yet more obstruction of justice if it happens.”

. . . .

Friends of Trump said earlier this week that the president is considering firing Mueller. If that happens, legal scholars say, it would likely prompt the resignations of senior Department of Justice staff, reprisals from Congress, and resignation of White House staff. Painter argues that it could lead to impeachment.

“Mueller is absolutely not compromised by his professional relationship with Comey,” said Painter on Saturday. “This is just an effort to undermine the credibility of the special counsel.”

************************************************

Stay tuned. Almost everyone except Trump and his “outside advisers” believes that firing Mueller would be suicidal. But, Trump appears to be unhinged and often doesn’t let rationality or prudence enter into his decision making. He’s managed to survive many self-destructive acts that would have spelled the end of the line for any other politician. But, this one might well bring him down.

PWS

06-18-17

 

 

SESSIONS SUMMARY: Irritated, Indignant, Not Very Informative! — Selective Memory On Display!

Of the many summaries floating around the internet, I found this one from “Will Drabold at Mic” to be the most useful:

Navigating Trump’s America — Special Jeff Sessions Edition — Tuesday, June 13, 2017
YOUR DAILY READ ON HOW THE
COUNTRY IS CHANGING UNDER DONALD TRUMP.
By Will Drabold at Mic.

 

Today’s question: Will Jeff Sessions’ testimony come to haunt him? Or did he hold up well under the spotlight? Email us at trumpsamerica@mic.com and join us for $1 a month to discuss this in our Facebook group.

 

Please respond to this email with your thoughts. You can read this in your browser here. And if someone forwarded this to you, do the right thing: Subscribe here.

 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions was defensive during his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Sessions was adamant he — and the Trump campaign — had zero collusion with Russia. This special edition of Navigating Trump’s America recaps Sessions’ hearing and what comes next.

Read a blow-by-blow of the hearing here.

 

6 takeaways from Jeff Sessions’ Senate testimony

1. The attorney general gave conflicting answers about his reported meetings with the Russian ambassador.

 

The attorney general said he “did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials” at an event for the president’s first major speech on foreign policy last year at a Washington, D.C., hotel. During questioning, Sessions’ tone grew shiftier.

 

Further, Sessions said he could not “recall” any meetings with Russian officials that have not been disclosed, nor did he have memory of conversations with other people tied to Russia.

 

This matters because Sessions, who was under oath, could later be grilled on this waffling by investigators running the Russia inquiry. Sessions seemingly acknowledged the need to give himself an out from that line of questioning, saying he cannot guarantee his recollection of events is correct.

 

2. Sessions said James Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

 

Sessions said Comey’s decision to publicly recommend not seeking charges in the email investigation was a “breathtaking usurpation of the responsibility of the attorney general.”

 

That doubled down on what Sessions put in his signed letter, but it contradicted Trump’s comment after Comey’s firing that the Russia investigation factored into the firing. Sessions said Tuesday that Trump’s words speak for themselves and he could not discuss more than the letter.

 

The attorney general shared his belief that it did not violate his recusal from the Russia investigation to be involved in firing Comey, something Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said did not “pass the smell test.” The attorney general was adamant it was his job, despite the recusal, to choose the leadership of the FBI.

 

3. The attorney general emphatically denied he had any involvement in allegations related to Russia.

 

Perhaps Sessions’ most sweeping statement came during his opening, when he said, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

 

The attorney general added that he did not recall anyone trying to influence him in his role with the Trump campaign.

 

4. The attorney general would not comment on whether he talked to Trump about firing Comey and whether the Russia investigation was part of the conversation about the firing.

 

“I am not stonewalling,” Sessions said in response to an accusation he was covering up conversations with the president.

 

Sessions repeatedly cited Justice Department regulations that he said bar him from discussing conversations he had with Trump. “I’m protecting the president’s constitutional right,” he said, by not discussing private conversations with Trump. “I think your silence speaks volumes,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

 

5. Sessions said he effectively recused himself from the Russia investigation the day after he was confirmed by the Senate.

 

Sessions said he has never had a briefing about the role of Russian interference in the U.S. election. The attorney general added that his recusal was made because of department regulations, not because he felt he could be a subject of the investigation.

 

“I recused myself that day,” Sessions said of the day after he was confirmed. “I never received any information about the campaign.”

 

6. The tone of the attorney general’s testimony was noticeably defensive.

 

“This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me,” Sessions said, raising his voice as he defended himself. Sessions called it an “appalling and detestable lie” to suggest he colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

 

The attorney general criticized anyone suggesting he has ties to Russia, saying there is no evidence he or fellow Trump supporters colluded with Russia.

 

A note on Sessions’ dodges:

 

Throughout the hearing, Sessions repeatedly dodged questions by claiming the president’s right to executive privilege. There’s just one problem: The president never invoked executive privilege, and the legal basis for Sessions’ dodges is questionable.

 

Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked Sessions to work with the White House to identify which questions the attorney general refused to answer on Tuesday could be addressed later on, in writing.

 

So where does the Russia investigation stand now?

 

Sessions had little to say about the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election given his recusal from the inquiry. But there was news outside the hearing about the investigation.

 

After reports surfaced that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the president did not answer questions from reporters on Tuesday about whether he was considering firing Mueller. Republican senators said that decision is not within Trump’s jurisdiction. Watch this space.

 

Senators were not eager to speak with reporters after the hearing. Mic could only connect with Sen. Marco Rubio, who said Sessions was forthcoming and answered questions. Neither Burr nor Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) offered public comment, as they did following Comey’s testimony. Journalists were told all other senators, and Sessions, had left the building within 30 minutes of the hearing wrapping.

 

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To me, there sure seems to be something fishy about the whole Comey firing. Why would the “new bosses” fire someone for something that happened well in the past and during a time that they were not even in charge of the DOJ? Why would they do it without waiting for the pending Inspector General report? Why wouldn’t they at least have given Comey, a well-respected figure in law enforcement, a chance to explain his side of the story? Why would they fabricate stories about “poor morale” in the FBI which certainly don’t seem to be borne out? It appears that while not universally beloved (who is, except for our “Supreme Leader?”) Comey generally was well-respected and trusted by the line agents. And, most important, why wouldn’t they carefully have considered whether or not Comey’s firing would impede the FBI’s most important pending investigation: into Russian interference with our elections?

That the Russians actively attempted to compromise our election process, the cornerstone of our democracy, is undisputed! Yet nobody, and I mean nobody, in the Trump Administration seems at all concerned about the national security aspect of it. And, notwithstanding the cosmetically bipartisan efforts, it’s clear that the GOP in Congress just wants the whole topic to go away. They plainly couldn’t care less about what Russia does to screw with our system unless they start losing some elections. While Trump gins up bogus national security concerns about a few Muslim countries that don’t send us very many migrants anyway, the real national security threat to America, Trump’s policies and his lackadaisical/permissive attitudes toward Russia are swept under the rug.

As for the “Mueller rumors,” just “send in the clowns.” Oh, no need, “they’re already here.”🤡

PWS

06-14-17

Sessions Likely To Take Heat For Role In Comey Firing After Recusal!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/12/politics/jack-reed-attorney-general-jeff-sessions-cnntv/index.html

CNN reports:

“(CNN)A Democratic senator who will question Attorney General Jeff Sessions at tomorrow’s Senate intelligence committee hearing wants to know why he was involved in the decision to fire former FBI director James Comey after he had recused himself from the Russia investigation.

“I think it’s important to establish why he was involved in the dismissal of Director Comey since he had recused from, apparently, all matters related to the Russia investigation, and (President Donald Trump) himself has indicated that he, indeed, based his dismissal of Comey on the Russia Investigation,” Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “The attorney general’s involvement is highly questionable, to be blunt, and I think those questions will be raised.”
The White House initially cited memos from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommending Comey’s firing over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe as the reason for his dismissal, and did not mention the Russia investigation. Trump later said in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey “regardless of the recommendation” and that he was thinking of the investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 election when he decided to let the FBI director go.
Sessions will answer lawmakers’ questions on those matters Tuesday at the hearing. Reed said he expects Sessions to be asked if he was aware that Trump was factoring Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation in his decision to fire Comey. And, if Sessions was aware of the President’s rationale, Reed said he expects that senators will ask why he did not remove himself from discussions about Comey.
Asked if he thinks Sessions will answer these questions, Reed said, “I don’t know frankly. I would hope that he would answer the questions.”

******************************

Sessions is a pretty slippery character with a conveniently bad memory for some things (like who the Russian Ambassador is, what he looks like, and what the question was). But, he is a lawyer, so I wouldn’t expect the Committee to get anything except platitudes from him (like at his Comformation hearings where he obscured his White Nationalist philosophy and his predetermined plans to undermime civil rights, tank sentencing reform, and “go gonzo” on immigration enforcement).

PWS

06-12-17

AND IT’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER NEXT WEEK FOR EMBATTLED AG — Sessions To Appear Before Senate Intelligence Comm On Tuesday! — Topic: RUSSIA!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/10/politics/sessions-senate-testimony/index.html

CNN reports:

“(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he will appear before the Senate intelligence committee rather than House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Tuesday, saying Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify on the latter panels in his place.

In a letter Saturday to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sessions said the change in venue would be more appropriate for expected questions on the issues raised by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the intelligence committee Thursday.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information,” Sessions explained.
It is unclear whether the upcoming intelligence committee hearing will be open or closed.”
**************************************************
You can get some video reports at the link:
Golly gee, sure hope Ol’ Jeff hasn’t forgotten what the Russian Ambassador looks like (again). Caution: If he denies the meeting under oath, and it can later be proved, Gonzo could follow in the footsteps of the his GOP antecedent, the notorious John Mitchell as a “law and order” AG who eventually became a guest of the Bureau of Prisons. But, Gonzo does love his prisons, so maybe that’s a good place for him. He’ll probably run into lots of “criminal” border crossers in minimum security. Perhaps, they will take pity on him and show him the ropes. He might want to brush up on his Spanish.
PWS
06-10-17

CNN: Sessions – Trump Rift Deepens — AG Offered To Resign — White House Declines “Vote Of Confidence”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/trump-and-sessions-have-had-heated-exchange/index.html

CNN reports:

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have had a series of heated exchanges in the last several weeks after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, a source close to Sessions told CNN Tuesday.

A senior administration official said that at one point, Sessions expressed he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him there.
The frustration comes at a critical juncture for Trump. Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify Thursday about his private discussions with Trump and the Russia investigation has lapped into the White House, with questions about the President’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump has confidence in Sessions.
“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer said.
As of 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, the White House still was unable to say whether or not the President backs his attorney general, a White House official said. The official said they wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened when Kellyanne Conway said Trump had confidence in Flynn only to find out hours later that the national security adviser had been pushed out.
Sessions remains at the Justice Department, where a spokeswoman told CNN that he is not stepping down.”
****************************************************
Read the complete article at the link.
Wow! Who would have thought that Jeff Sessions could be the first Cabinet casualty? Must say, I didn’t see this one coming! In recusing himself from the Russia probe, Sessions not only did the ethical thing, but also saved Trump from the firestorm that would have ensued had he continued to participate in the investigation.
Sessions is nutsos on most legal issues, but I have to give him credit for showing backbone and independence here. Sounds like he might be gone before the 4th of July, particularly if the Supremes turn down the Travel Ban case, which I think becomes more likely with each Trump escapade. I’d also guess that Rosenstein and Brand would follow him out the door, leaving the DOJ essentially leaderless at a critical time.

If Sessions can’t survive, who would want the AG job? And anyone who would take it, and was satisfactory to Trump, might well have problems getting confirmed, even with the GOP in charge.

Stay tuned.
PWS
06-07-17

NYT: Trump, Sessions Split Brewing? — Apparently The Donald Expected AG To Be Complete Toady — Unpleasantly Suprised With Independence!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/us/politics/trump-discontent-attorney-general-jeff-sessions.html?emc=edit_nn_20170606&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1&_r=0

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman report:
“WASHINGTON — Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Behind-the-scenes frustration would not be unprecedented in the Oval Office. Other presidents have become estranged from the Justice Department over time, notably President Bill Clinton, who bristled at Attorney General Janet Reno’s decisions to authorize investigations into him and his administration, among other things. But Mr. Trump’s tweets on Monday made his feelings evident for all to see and raised questions about how he is managing his own administration.

“They wholly undercut the idea that there is some rational process behind the president’s decisions,” said Walter E. Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under Mr. Clinton. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”

******************************************

Read the complete article at the link.

I certainly never would have accused Trump of rationality.

It seems it doesn’t take much to go from hero to goat with Trump — another sign of an unbalanced mind at the helm of our country. I’ve been a frequent critic of Jeff Sessions for his anti-immigrant views, white nationalist associations, and totally “gonzo” views and actions on civil rights and immigration enforcement. But, it sounds like he has been trying to do the right thing in this situation and offering the President some wise counsel.  I guess there is no surer way of getting on Trump’s “hit list” than to act with some rationality and integrity.

It’s still a problem if Sessions isn’t able to control Trump’s public behavior in litigation. The head of a law firm can’t stand by and let a client, even the big one, publicly abuse and undermine his or her partners and associates.

In private practice, you sometimes have to “fire” an unruly client. In Government, you can’t fire the President, but you can “take a walk” and let folks know why you are doing it. Ultimately, Sessions (and Rosenstein, and probably Associate AG Rachel Brand) might have to decide whether to be loyal to the President or to the Department of Justice and the integrity of our justice system.

Shouldn’t really be much of a dilemma. After all, no politico expects to serve indefinitely, and each member of this trio should be readily employable in the private sector.

PWS

06-06-17

 

BREAKING: WashPost Reports That Russia Probe Now Involves Trump Top Aide! — Is The “House Of Cards” Beginning To Wobble?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russia-probe-reaches-current-white-house-official-people-familiar-with-the-case-say/2017/05/19/7685adba-3c99-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_fbiprobedeck-315pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.2f64c5fc8b83

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky Report:

“The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tikkerson.”

*******************************************************

Read the complete story at the link.

I think “we’ve got trouble, right here in River City!” Stay runed!

PWS

05-19-17

 

WANTED: Public Servants With Backbone To Stand Up To Trump & Sessions!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/preet-bharara-are-there-still-public-servants-who-will-say-no-to-the-president/2017/05/14/8df915de-38d6-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html

Former U.S. arrorney for the S.D.N.Y. Preet Bharara writes in an Washington Post op-ed:

“And in the tumult of this time, the question whose answer we should perhaps fear the most is the one evoked by that showdown: Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the president?

Now, as the country once again wonders whether justice can be nonpolitical and whether its leaders understand the most basic principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law, I recall yet another firestorm that erupted 10 years ago over the abrupt and poorly explained firing of top Justice Department officials in the midst of sensitive investigations. The 2007 affair was not Watergate, the more popular parallel invoked lately, but the lessons of that spring, after the Bush administration inexplicably fired more than eight of its own U.S. attorneys, are worth recalling.

When the actions became public, people suspected political interference and obstruction. Democrats were the most vocal, but some Republicans asked questions, too. The uproar intensified as it became clear that the initial explanations were mere pretext, and the White House couldn’t keep its story straight. Public confidence ebbed, and Congress began to investigate.
In response, the Senate launched a bipartisan (yes, bipartisan) investigation into those firings and the politicization of the Justice Department. Early on, the then-deputy attorney general — Comey was gone by then — looked senators in the eye and said the U.S. attorneys were fired for cause; although such appointees certainly serve at will, this assertion turned out to be demonstrably false. We learned that the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, David C. Iglesias, was fired soon after receiving an improper call from Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici pushing him to bring political corruption cases before the election. We learned that Justice Department officials in Washington had improperly applied a conservative ideological litmus test to attorneys seeking career positions, to immigration judges and even to the hiring of interns.”

*******************************************************

As I personally experienced, the Bush DOJ was thoroughly politicized and compromised. U.S. Immigration Judges were among those affected by political hiring. Indeed, it did get all the way down to the level of interns.  I knew well-qualified former interns who were “thrown out ” of consideration for permanent appointments under the so-called “Attorney General’s Honors Program” because their law schools or backgrounds were considered “too liberal.”

But, we don’t learn. Jeff Sessions is certainly on track to make the DOJ a mere suboffice of the White House staff. The idea that Sessions would act with integrity and/or say no to the President is beyond laughable.

Sadly, Rosenstein simply seems to be another in the long line of DOJ officials who have sacrificed principles and integrity for career advancement. He’ll likely ride his stint as Deputy AG to a partnership in a major downtown law firm defending white collar criminals and disgraced politicians. And, I have little doubt that the Trump Administration will produce lots off both. Nice work, if you can get it.

Closer to home, with the recent resignations of EOIR Director Juan Osuna and Deputy Director Ana Kocur, both well-respected apolitical career civil servants, we should be watching to see if a politico is appointed to oversee the crumbling U.S. Immigration Court system. At some point in the future, “good government” supporters will regain political control. It will then be important for those of us who believe in an independent immigration judiciary to have our documentation of the corruption and incompetence of DOJ mal-administration of our Immigration Courts ready to present along with a feasible plan for a new independent, due process focused Immigration Court.

PWS

05-15-17

WashPost: Another View — Former AG Bill Barr Says Comey Firing Is All Good!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/former-attorney-general-trump-made-the-right-call-on-comey/2017/05/12/0e858436-372d-11e7-b4ee-434b6d506b37_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.cac253d3cd55

Barr writes in an op-ed:

William Barr was U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

“Having served as both attorney general and deputy attorney general in the Justice Department, I had responsibility for supervising the FBI, working on virtually a daily basis with its senior leadership. From that experience I came to understand how fortunate we are as a nation to have in the FBI the finest law-enforcement organization in the world — one that is thoroughly professional and free of partisanship. I offer this perspective on President Trump’s removal of FBI Director James B. Comey.

Comey is an extraordinarily gifted man who has contributed much during his many years of public service. Unfortunately, beginning in July, when he announced the outcome of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, he crossed a line that is fundamental to the allocation of authority in the Justice Department.

While the FBI carries out investigative work, the responsibility for supervising, directing and ultimately determining the resolution of investigations is solely the province of the Justice Department’s prosecutors. With an investigation as sensitive as the one involving Clinton, the ultimate decision-making is reserved to the attorney general or, when the attorney general is recused, the deputy attorney general. By unilaterally announcing his conclusions regarding how the matter should be resolved, Comey arrogated the attorney general’s authority to himself

It is true, as I pointed out in a Post op-ed in October, that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, after her tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, had left a vacuum by neither formally recusing herself nor exercising supervision over the case. But the remedy for that was for Comey to present his factual findings to the deputy attorney general, not to exercise the prosecutorial power himself on a matter of such grave importance.

Until Comey’s testimony last week, I had assumed that Lynch had authorized Comey to act unilaterally. It is now clear that the department’s leadership was sandbagged. I know of no former senior Justice Department official — Democrat or Republican — who does not view Comey’s conduct in July to have been a grave usurpation of authority.

. . . .

It is telling that none of the president’s critics are challenging the decision on the merits. None argue that Comey’s performance warranted keeping him on as director. Instead, they are attacking the president’s motives, claiming the president acted to neuter the investigation into Russia’s role in the election.

The notion that the integrity of this investigation depends on Comey’s presence just does not hold water. Contrary to the critics’ talking points, Comey was not “in charge” of the investigation.

. . . .

According to news reports, the investigation is in full swing, with the Justice Department using a grand jury to subpoena relevant information, indicating a degree of thoroughness not evident in the investigation into Clinton’s email server. Comey’s removal simply has no relevance to the integrity of the Russian investigation as it moves ahead.”

************************************************

Read Barr’s entire op-ed at the link.

So, according to Barr, that the Administration lied about the real reasons for firing Comey, the Russia investigation, should be of no concern to us. We should be reassured because the investigation is proceeding under the direction of DOJ underlings, who owe their continued employment to Jeff Sessions and report to DAG Rod “The Dupe” Rosenstein, who helped the White House provide a “non-Russian” rationale for the firing, which Trump later repudiated. And, we should believe that the Director of the FBI was not “in charge” of the Bureau’s most significant and high-profile investigation. So then, it doesn’t make any difference who Trump picks for the next Director because he (or she) will just be a figurehead, having no responsibility  for the work of subordinates.

Wow! Why have an FBI Director at all, if you believe Barr. Maybe you buy Barr’s reasoning, but I don’t. In fact, I find his entire argument highly disingenuous.

PWS

05-13-17

NY TIMES EDITORIAL: “Open Letter” To DAG Rosenstein

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/opinion/deputy-attorney-general-open-letter.html?mwrsm=Facebook&referer=http://m.facebook.com

“An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General
Rod Rosenstein has more authority than anyone else to restore Americans’ confidence in their government.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
MAY 11, 2017
Dear Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

It’s rare that any single person has to bear as much responsibility for safeguarding American democracy as you find yourself carrying now. Even before President Trump’s shocking decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James Comey, a dark cloud of suspicion surrounded this president, and the very integrity of the electoral process that put him in office. At this fraught moment you find yourself, improbably, to be the person with the most authority to dispel that cloud and restore Americans’ confidence in their government. We sympathize; that’s a lot of pressure.

Given the sterling reputation you brought into this post — including a 27-year career in the Justice Department under five administrations, and the distinction of being the longest-serving United States attorney in history — you no doubt feel a particular anguish, and obligation to act. As the author of the memo that the president cited in firing Mr. Comey, you are now deeply implicated in that decision.

It was a solid brief; Mr. Comey’s misjudgments in his handling of the F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server were indeed serious. Yet you must know that these fair criticisms were mere pretext for Mr. Trump, who dumped Mr. Comey just as he was seeking more resources to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

You must also know that in ordering you to write the memo, Mr. Trump exploited the integrity you have earned over nearly three decades in public service, spending down your credibility as selfishly as he has spent other people’s money throughout his business career. We can only hope that your lack of an explicit recommendation to fire Mr. Comey reflects your own refusal to go as far as the president wanted you to.
In any case, the memo is yours, and that has compromised your ability to oversee any investigations into Russian meddling. But after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from these matters, because of his own contacts during the campaign with the Russians, the power to launch a truly credible investigation has fallen to you, and you alone.
You have one choice: Appoint a special counsel who is independent of both the department and the White House. No one else would have the standing to assure the public it is getting the truth. While a handful of Republican senators and representatives expressed concern at Mr. Comey’s firing, there is as yet no sign that the congressional investigations into Russian interference will be properly staffed or competently run. And Americans can have little faith that the Justice Department, or an F.B.I. run by Mr. Trump’s handpicked replacement, will get to the bottom of whether and how Russia helped steal the presidency for Mr. Trump.

In theory, no one should have a greater interest in a credible investigation than the president, who has repeatedly insisted the suspicions about his campaign are baseless. Yet rather than try to douse suspicions, he has shown he is more than willing to inflame them by impeding efforts to get to the truth.

Given your own reputation for probity, you must be troubled as well by the broader pattern of this president’s behavior, including his contempt for ethical standards of past presidents. He has mixed his business interests with his public responsibilities. He has boasted that conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to him as president. And from the moment he took office, Mr. Trump has shown a despot’s willingness to invent his own version of the truth and to weaponize the federal government to confirm that version, to serve his ego and to pursue vendettas large and small.

When Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes, for instance, he created a Voter Fraud Task Force to back up his claim that the margin resulted from noncitizens voting illegally (the task force has done nothing to date). When there was no evidence for his claim that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, Mr. Trump demanded that members of Congress put their work aside in order to dig up “facts” to support it.

Firing Mr. Comey — who, in addition to leading the Russia investigation, infuriated Mr. Trump by refusing to give any credence to his wiretapping accusation — is only the latest and most stunning example. The White House can’t even get its own story straight about why Mr. Trump took this extraordinary step.

Few public servants have found themselves with a choice as weighty as yours, between following their conscience and obeying a leader trying to evade scrutiny — Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who behaved nobly in Watergate, come to mind. You can add your name to this short, heroic list. Yes, it might cost you your job. But it would save your honor, and so much more besides.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.”

*************************************************

I don’t neseccarily agree that the “Rosenstein memo”  was a “solid brief.” To me, it looked like a “cut and paste” effort consisting largely of old news clips that reminded me of a “C+” high school project. There is actually an Inspector General investigation of the Clinton matter pending at th DOJ, but the supposedly “apolitical professional prosecutor” Rosenstein didn’t even think it appropriate to wait for the results before rushing to judgement.

Perhaps the truest test of the bankruptcy of Rosenstein’s letter was the outraged reaction of my former Jones Day Partner, former Deputy Attorney General Don Ayer, a “man of integrity” to be sure. Here is what Ayer and former AG Alberto Gonzales had to say:

“Columbus and others noted that Rosenstein said in his memo that he agreed with former Justice Department officials who had criticized Comey. However, while all of those former officials were critical of Comey’s actions in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, none recommended that he be fired. Moreover, at least two of those former officials, Donald Ayer and Alberto Gonzales, criticized Trump’s decision to fire Comey. Ayer said the firing was a “sham,” and Gonzales said the president failed to make the case for it, leaving people to “assume the worst.”

Here’s a link to the complete article from the Washington Post quoting Ayer and Gonzales.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/some-are-puzzled-by-deputy-ags-central-role-in-the-drama-of-trump-and-comey/2017/05/10/e6f61c42-35be-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?utm_term=.574669e2a509

PWS

05-11-17